Methinks all nature hath no cure for Love,
Plaster or unguent, Nicias, saving one;
And this is light and pleasant to a man,
Yet hard withal to compass--minstrelsy.
As well thou wottest, being thyself a leech,
And a prime favourite of those Sisters nine.
'Twas thus our Giant lived a life of ease,
Old Polyphemus, when, the down scarce seen
On lip and chin, he wooed his ocean nymph:
No curlypated rose-and-apple wooer,
But a fell madman, blind to all but love.
Oft from the green grass foldward fared his sheep
Unbid: while he upon the windy beach,
Singing his Galatea, sat and pined
From dawn to dusk, an ulcer at his heart:
Great Aphrodite's shaft had fixed it there.
Yet found he that one cure: he sate him down
On the tall cliff, and seaward looked, and sang:--
"White Galatea, why disdain thy love?
White as a pressed cheese, delicate as the lamb,
Wild as the heifer, soft as summer grapes!
If sweet sleep chain me, here thou walk'st at large;
If sweet sleep loose me, straightway thou art gone,
Scared like a sheep that sees the grey wolf near.
I loved thee, maiden, when thou cam'st long since,
To pluck the hyacinth-blossom on the fell,
Thou and my mother, piloted by me.
I saw thee, see thee still, from that day forth
For ever; but 'tis naught, ay naught, to thee.
I know, sweet maiden, why thou art so coy:
Shaggy and huge, a single eyebrow spans
From ear to ear my forehead, whence one eye
Gleams, and an o'erbroad nostril tops my lip.
Yet I, this monster, feed a thousand sheep
That yield me sweetest draughts at milking-tide:
In summer, autumn, or midwinter, still
Fails not my cheese; my milkpail aye o'erflows.
Then I can pipe as ne'er did Giant yet,
Singing our loves--ours, honey, thine and mine--
At dead of night: and hinds I rear eleven
(Each with her fawn) and bearcubs four, for thee.
Oh come to me--thou shalt not rue the day--
And let the mad seas beat against the shore!
'Twere sweet to haunt my cave the livelong night:
Laurel, and cypress tall, and ivy dun,
And vines of sumptuous fruitage, all are there:
And a cold spring that pine-clad AEtna flings
Down from, the white snow's midst, a draught for gods!
Who would not change for this the ocean-waves?
"But thou mislik'st my hair? Well, oaken logs
Are here, and embers yet aglow with fire.
Burn (if thou wilt) my heart out, and mine eye,
Mine only eye wherein is my delight.
Oh why was I not born a finny thing,
To float unto thy side and kiss thy hand,
Denied thy lips--and bring thee lilies white
And crimson-petalled poppies' dainty bloom!
Nay--summer hath his flowers and autumn his;
I could not bring all these the selfsame day.
Lo, should some mariner hither oar his road,
Sweet, he shall teach me straightway how to swim,
That haply I may learn what bliss ye find
In your sea-homes. O Galatea, come
Forth from yon waves, and coming forth forget
(As I do, sitting here) to get thee home:
And feed my flocks and milk them, nothing loth,
And pour the rennet in to fix my cheese!
"The blame's my mother's; she is false to me;
Spake thee ne'er yet one sweet word for my sake,
Though day by day she sees me pine and pine.
I'll feign strange throbbings in my head and feet
To anguish her--as I am anguished now."
O Cyclops, Cyclops, where are flown thy wits?
Go plait rush-baskets, lop the olive-boughs
To feed thy lambkins--'twere the shrewder part.
Chase not the recreant, milk the willing ewe:
The world hath Galateas fairer yet.
"--Many a fair damsel bids me sport with her
The livelong night, and smiles if I give ear.
On land at least I still am somebody."
Thus did the Giant feed his love on song,
And gained more ease than may be bought with gold.
Last updated January 14, 2019
Polyphemus is depicted as in love with the sea-nymph Galatea and finding solace in song. In "Idyll 6," he is cured of his passion and naively relates how he repulses the overtures now made to him by Galatea. The monster of Homer's Odyssey has been "written up to date" after the Alexandrian manner and has become a gentle simpleton.